What Can Marketers Learn From The Best Heist Movies? A Lot…

Admittedly, I’m a movie buff and one of my favorite genera’s are heist movies. I’m also a big fan of well-executed marketing campaigns. Based on my real-world experience as a modern marketer, I have a few parallels to draw between heist films and creating marketing strategies that work.

The heist film…focuses on the planning, execution, and aftermath of a theft. Versions with dominant or prominent comic elements are often called caper movies. They could be described as the analogues of caper stories in film history.  Wikipedia.org – “what is a heist movie”

Why am I telling you this? It’s not that I want you to become a thief of your customer’s money. But if you want to build a great brand, you will want to consider that you have to (figuratively) steal their hearts and minds.

Think about your favorite heist movie and why you like it. For me, it’s stories like Ocean’s Eleven, Inception, The Italian Job, The Inside Man and The Usual Suspects. Using this list of great heist films as my inspiration, here are the five things marketers can learn from the best heist movies.

1. Plan all the way through to the end

Plan everything. Even if your team or co-workers only see the high level points of your strategy, open up a bottle of red wine one quiet evening and plaaaaaaan. “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Plan for failure too. What are some of the things that could go wrong with the campaign? Doing so can minimize setbacks along the way.

Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Inception (2010)

Eames: You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling. [Pulls out a grenade launcher]

Thinking through how you actually deliver a service to your customers is key. From their search needing a product or service to you fulfilling that need. I like to think about it in the sense of a treasure map. Marketer’s should make it stupid easy for people to find the treasure (i.e. your product). Savvy? Ok, sorry for the Pirates of the Caribbean reference but, planning really involves thinking through the content that’s relevant to the search your users are doing and creating content servicing that need.

2. Everyone has their own unique strengths

Combine them. That’s right, you heard me, combine them. As a marketer, it’s in your best interest to nurture a team leveraging the unique qualities of each person.  This is how you build productive teams. There’s no real process for operating a great team, the secret is letting each individual do what they do well. That’s how you win together.

Ocean's 11 (2001)

Turk Malloy: [intentionally arguing to each other extend the time needed for their balloons to block the security camera’s view] Watch it, bud. Virgil Malloy: Who you calling bud, pal? Turk Malloy: Who you calling pal, friend? Virgil Malloy: Who you calling friend, jackass? Turk Malloy: Don’t call me a jackass. Virgil Malloy: I just did call you a jackass.

3. Look out for one another

Teams are like family; they stick together and have each other’s backs. The lesson here for marketers is that brands that really care and demonstrate they understand their customers will win and retain their customer base much better than the typical “kthanksby” for your purchase experience.

Inside Man (2006)

Keith Frazier: Oh, please, do not say proposals… my girlfriend… she wants a proposal from me. Dalton Russell: You think you’re too young to get married? Keith Frazier: No, I’m not too young… too broke. Maybe I should rob a bank. Dalton Russell: Do you love each other? Keith Frazier: Yeah, yeah, we do. Dalton Russell: Then money shouldn’t really matter. Keith Frazier: Thank you, bank robber!

4. Ringleaders adapt to stay in control of the progression of events

Sometimes things don’t go according to plan (see the above section on planning for failure). And that’s OK. But the reason why we like Dominick Cobb or Danny Ocean is because they seem in control.

As marketers, we know it’s not possible to remain completely in control of the outcome with such a fragmented landscape. We have to contend with things like show-rooming where people try things in store then buy online, or worse yet they snag a discounted Groupon-type engagement with your product or service. Again, that’s why planning comes in handy. Stay in touch with the customer-facing teams, like sales and customer support, so that you can use all of the data input you have to build a story line of what’s happening. Where are your customers buying and how can you (the authentic brand) be there instead to earn the sale?

Inception (2010)

5. The masterminds always gets what they want

Don’t you just want to be that person too!? I mean, how is it that they always get what they want? Because it’s by design.

For modern marketers, this means finding your true customers and continuing to bring value to them. You can also pay it forward; doing the unexpected is…well unexpected. It can even be delightful.

But it’s all by design.

Inception (2010) directed by Christopher Nolen

The Usual Suspects (1995) - Kevin Spacey. Directed by Bryan Singer

Growing Up Millennial – How We Use Social Media

Imaging there is no Facebook. No Instagram. No Twitter. No Snapchat. What do you spend your time doing? Who are you telling that story to about your weekend adventure in LA rescuing the neighbor’s cat and breaking into your friend’s apartment because you were out partying but they fell asleep on the couch. Who is listening to you? Who are you telling your stories to?

Not, who are you broadcasting your life to, because there is difference. Hopefully, another human being maybe?

But let’s (be kind and) rewind this VHS tape back to the start to get a glimpse of the Millennial foundation.

Facebook was founded in February 2004.  I was at Chapman University in Southern California at the time. I remember responding to a petition where our .edu email addresses were required in order to gain access the platform. There were other universities signing up too, but it took a certain number of signatures in order for Facebook to extend access to your university to the platform. They did. At the time, it was a closed platform for students only and it was glorious.

FTV dance hall party

Oh yes, kids, our film school hallway dance parties were…epic 😉

I remember the fun in sharing pictures from the party the night before, adding random commentary and tagging friends. We thought nothing more of it than a photo-sharing-I-just-ate-a-sandwich-status-update website. At one point everyone’s relationship status was “it’s complicated” because…it’s funny. Also, at the time there was NO MOBILE app; I would come back from class and have to log into Facebook’s desktop site to see updates.

Fast forward to 2014 where over half a billion users access Facebook exclusively through mobile devices.

When Facebook opened its doors to everyone, they held their initial IPO in May of 2012, our online world changed overnight. Suddenly, everyone’s mom was on the platform. Employers could see where you were on Monday night. Having the proper relationship status’s actually became important (gah!). We all became highly aware of the nuances of a public vs. private post. In that moment, we became our own brand ambassadors almost immediately.

Shifting to some of the other social giants, Twitter was founded in March 2006. I joined April 2009.

Instagram launched in October 2010. I was late to the game and got on this platform in May 2015 (based on the date of my very first photo on IG).

Snapchat crashed the party in September 2011. I dipped my toe in, getting on board in 2013.

At this point, Facebook remains the only platform of which I’ve been an early adopter. But my point is that Millennial’s largely matured on this and similar platforms. We’re somewhat used to the microscopic fame of our social media profiles. And it’s only been just over a decade.

Social media has defined the Millennial generation and created a black-swan effect that’s largely still being played out. Scroll through any 30-something’s feed of vacation selfies and you’ll see how susceptible we are to the comparison-syndrome trap which leads to feelings of inadequacy.  This year, Facebook hit its 2 billion monthly user mark.  That kind of size is a delicate balance “where it’s worth really taking a careful look at what are all the things that we can do to make social media the most positive force for good possible.” That was from Facebook Chief Product Officer, Chris Cox.

With great power comes great responsibility.

At this stage in our lives and careers, many Millennial’s are seeking social media and technology that makes life easier. Whether we’re single, have kids, or are newly married, we’re the generation that knows how and where to search to get things done. Millennial’s are the generation most receptive to online interactions with the largest purchasing power, acute search capability, and a general zest for sharing photos of our lives and the occasional bad brand experience. We’re our own filmmakers kicking off a live video to share something cool, funny or unique.

The good news is we still have the ability to choose which stories of our own and others to amplify. Even better, with heroes like Simon Sinek, Seth Godin, Amy Cuddy, and Brene Brown my suspicion is we’ll turn out to be a pretty good lot after all.

One can only hope 😉

Are Enterprise SEO’s a Dying Breed?

Imagine you’re a physician. You’re traveling home on a flight back from a week-long conference where you had to renew your certification. You met many new and old connections and came away knowing your industry is alive and well.  The plane loudly hums along through the air while you review your session notes. Then you begin to hear some commotion from the other passengers a few rows behind you.

One voice. “Can we get her some water?”

Another voice. “She’s having trouble breathing…”

The flight attendant call button sounds in the cabin “ding!” You remain seated. Ears pricked up but waiting.

Your eyes are just returning to your notes when the pilot comes over the loud speaker, “Sorry for the disturbance folks. If there is a doctor on board, please make yourself known to a flight attendant.”

Out of commitment to your field, you are obligated to get involved. Out of personal passion, you have chosen this field. Either way, you are required to help and try to restore that human being back to health. And because of this, people listen to you.

I often feel like I’m a doctor making as many helpful recommendations as I can when it comes to corporate SEO initiatives. But there are so many different parties involved; it can be hard to meet everyone’s needs equally – time involved, level of effort, impact on improving organic traffic, all while staying on top of industry fluctuations. For such improvements to make an impact site-wide, it takes a village.

My parents are both in the medical field. When I was young, I was actually dissuaded from becoming a doctor. But I still have this inherent desire to help and to fix things.

When I hear digital challenges like “why did organic traffic drop on this date,” or “why are these pages not converting” I like the investigation. I thrive on it.  I look at the symptoms the website or a page is exhibiting and I try to gauge that against what I know of Google’s standard for user experience and content that’s relevant to the intent behind the search query.

But I have to be careful not to go too deep down the rabbit hole on what factors might be the cause of the issue. Today, the algorithms are working in real time and we can never be fully confident in the knowledge that a single factor is the cause.

Which is why, we as SEO’s make recommendations to the best of our knowledge, we test and we watch. If the patient (website) improves, we know we addressed the right aspect of the problem. This is why SEO is a long term game. There are no shortcuts to quality. It’s an investment in the right things making sure you empower other teams to help you along the way.

“There is a new breed of SEO manager who is politically savvy and gifted at collaborating with and mobilizing non-SEO teams. If SEO-integration isn’t on your roadmap, you’d better hope it’s not on your competitors’ maps either–otherwise they’ll have gold, and you won’t.”  The Executive SEO Playbook, by Jessica Bowman

Why do doctors never give up? Because they care. And it might also have something to do with taking a Hippocratic Oath 😉

How can enterprise-level SEO’s be as effective? My prescription is the following:

  1. Have more productive SEO-based conversations with stakeholders.
  2. Make SEO easy to implement and actionable for each team.
  3. Foster connections with other trusted, in-house SEO’s and seek their advice regularly.
  4. Read Jessica’s book!

 

A little perspective on how to speed up recovery time

This past week I’ve been recovering from a surgery where I had a gum graft done (that’s where they take a portion of skin from the roof of your mouth to essentially cover over the gum area of the tooth where you have a receding gum line. Exciting stuff, I know.) Anyway, I’ve been resting the last four days. But by today, the fifth day, I wanted to begin doing something to mentally and physically to remind myself I’m actively on the road to recovery.

You might think that getting back into weightlifting would not be the wisest move. But, thankfully, I’m fortunate enough to have a coach that listens to me and understands when I need a little push and when to prescribe just the right amount of “recovery work” to get my heart rate up and the blood flowing through my muscles.

Recovery is a funny thing, you see, because it’s a balance of getting enough rest and enough moderate physical activity to begin regaining strength. The trick is not letting yourself play the victim.

Mentally telling yourself you should continue to stay in bed. Mentally ignoring the healthy, nourishing foods that will aid in your recovery and instead eating fast food. Those can quickly become your reality if you let your recovery time become a crutch.

A quick aside, I am in no way overlooking your doctor recommended and necessary recovery time involved for any kind of major surgery. However, the general point I am making is that it can be all too easy to fall off the wagon…and stay there. And when that happens, you’ll have to remind yourself that you can also get right back on at any time.

Low intensity exercises are helpful during a recovery period because not only are there physical benefits of increased mobility and building strength but it also gives you perspective to know you can become strong again. You can’t think about it.  You have to do it.

fitness is good for recovery.PNG

fitness as a form of recovery @courageperformance

A few more quick things you can do for yourself:

  • Eat healthy foods that have protein, for me it was soft foods like scrambled eggs.
  • Stay hydrated mixing it up with fluids like water/Gatorade or cold green tea. Try adding honey. It’s a natural healing element.
  • Use a humidifier at night
  • Call your mother 😉

The universe rewards action. The more you can make small adjustments taking action towards a known goal, the sooner you’ll get what you want.

Why ‘La La Land’ Should Have Won Best Picture

La La Land’ encapsulates what it means to reconcile with the choices we make, bearing witness to outcomes that could have been, and in spite of this, owning our story and making the best of the choices we’ve made. This helps us move on in pursuit of becoming the best version of ourselves.

There’s something about being in Los Angeles and the entertainment industry that always reminds me of the importance of storytelling. And while Tinseltown itself is built on the art of storytelling, it reminded me of how we are all writing our own individual stories.  The best stories, I find, are the ones that allow you to aspire to be something bigger than yourself yet they’re also a reflection of your reality.  It’s one of the reasons I felt La La Land should have actually won Best Picture. It gives you the fun, the romance, the fantasy but ultimately the story presents a reality few would have expected from what appears to be a musical.
Maybe it was the fact that we watched the opening dance scene several times but my weekend visit in LA, the weekend of the Oscars, felt like a mini version of La La Land.
Saturday was spent catching up with my dance partner and his friends over brunch while the screener DVD for La La Land played in the background and all of us kept bursting into partner dances in the living room at random intervals. What fun! If one scene of my life were a musical that would have been it!
But it wasn’t until Sunday evening at an Oscar party with college friends that I became aware of how my own script is still playing out. Watching others at the party with romantic companions and my university friends now managing squirming kids I thought about how things could have turned out very differently for me.  
That moment of retrospect was what resonated for me when watching that same experience happen to the female lead in the third act of the film.
La La Land.png
This is where Mia (played by Emma Stone) walks into Seb’s Jazz Bar now owned & operated by her former romantic interest (played by Ryan Gosling #swoon) and sees him on stage about to play a set, his dream of being the club’s owner finally realized. It’s bittersweet because their paths crossed, but they ultimately don’t end up together. And yet, Mia still gets a happy ending with a companion, a family, and a career just not with whom she thought it might all be shared with.
There’s something to be said for a movie that can present this kind of balance to today’s audiences. Indulging our aspirations but also layering in the idea that there can be multiple pathways towards attaining professional success, love and happiness in life. If we’re brave enough to be open to it.
The single reason La La Land should have won Best Picture; it’s a movie about real life. We’re all works in progress but we can change the script. It starts with choosing to show up, be vulnerable, and make the best of the choices we make.

Here’s to the ones who dream
Foolish as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that ache
Here’s to the mess we make

She told me
“A bit of madness is key
To give us new colors to see
Who knows where it will lead us?
And that’s why they need us”

Two main ingredients: salt & love

Morton salt girl_when it rains it pours.png

I got to have dinner with a chef the other night. It was fun to see a completely different perspective on food, its taste and presentation — all the stuff you take for granted after awhile. It was kind of like sitting next to a director while watching a movie. You just know this person is going to see things in a different way because of their relationship to their trade.

At one point he said, “food really only needs two main ingredients.”

Besides bacon and…? “And those would be?”

“Salt and love.”

OK I’m intrigued. “Love, you say? So, I’m curious, how do you put love into a dish?”

I’m paraphrasing now but his answer was about infusing intent and purpose while  preparing the food; cutting the little eyes out of the potatoes and making sure it gets chopped into even cubes.  And it made me think about how simple and complex the ingredient of “love” is because it’s energy, it’s something that gets added in its own unique way to everything. If you think about it, as human beings, we all inherently have this ingredient. Now, about that dash of salt…

How I’m learning to get over my fear of failure

holly miller athlete.jpg

Let me give you steps of a completely different kind because there is no checklist to getting over your fears; there are no shortcuts here. For what it’s worth, I’m learning it has more to do with leveraging a balance of mental and physical strength. Getting into a routine that helps you build physical strength and mobility is undoubtedly going to do wonders for your confidence, body, health etc. But in addition to that, there’s the “health” and strength of your mind – specifically your thoughts.

The mental work will be largely based on personal preference, but here are some good places, I’ve found, to start:
1.  “Practice Focus” Episode 5 – Living with Courage podcast.
2. “Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life” by Susan David, PhD.

It’s normal (evolutionary, even) for us to feel fear. But what holds us back is the fact that we can cling to fear and accept it as reality. For weightlifting, it can be a thought like, “the weight that’s on the bar is heavy. I can’t do it.”

Now, I’m not going to step up to attempt a lift on a loaded bar of weight I’ve never lifted before because that’s not a good idea; you need to be training and building up to the weight (listen to the podcast). But, there is a way to create a new mental pathway that can help in your practice. It comes from “distancing [yourself] from both the physical effects of [your] fear–the cortisol surge, the accelerated heart rate, and the hyperventilation–and from any self-doubting narratives that might have already hooked [you]…” Learning to acknowledge yet distance yourself from your emotions and connecting with why you actually want to do something is how you learn to go forward in spite of the fears that are holding you back.

It may not be okay right then and there. But it will be okay.

You can lift the weights. You can engage in the difficult conversations with your significant other. You can speak up in a company meeting. You can do these things with your fear and the internal self doubt and still go forward.

It’s not about being fearless but having the courage to go forward with both your fears and your values on board because it’s intrinsically important to you.